Idealized experiments using linear (LM) and nonlinear (NM) multilevel global spectral models have been carried out to investigate and understand the impact of nonlinearities on the stationary wave response in the tropical atmosphere and its sensitivity to the vertical profile of heating. It is found that nonlinearities exert a dominant influence on the low-latitude stationary Kelvin and Rossby waves particularly in the vicinity of the forcing region. Our study shows that nonlinear effects on the upper tropospheric response produce prominent eastward displacement of the anticyclonic vorticity and horizontal shifts of the maximum equilibrium divergence relative to the prescribed heating. These changes due to nonlinear terms are found to be quite sensitive to the vertical structure of diabatic heating. The strongest nonlinear effects are found to occur when the vertical level under consideration is strongly forced from below. Detailed vorticity budget calculations indicate that stronger nonlinear contributions from stretching and horizontal advection of relative vorticity favour the generation of upper tropospheric anticyclonic circulation and its eastward displacement. Larger vertical advection and twisting terms appear to oppose the generation of upper tropospheric anticyclonic vorticity. It is found that the nonlinear terms which affect the vorticity generation in the upper levels are crucially controlled by the vertical profile of heating.
The mid-tropospheric response due to deep convective heating in the NM is characterized by anomalous equatorial westerlies in the low-latitude Rossby regime and exhibits prominent ageostrophic motions. Such nonlinear effects appear probably because of a vertical shift of the low level circulation anomalies in the NM. In the case of shallow convective heating the occurrence of anomalous zonal flows and ageostrophic motions in the low latitude regions of the NM takes place near the level of the maximum heating. Our study shows that large heating amplitudes and small vertical gradient of heating at a given vertical level together favour generation of anomalous zonal flows and ageostrophic motions in the near equatorial regions. These anomalous basic flows in the low-latitudes have implications on the propagation of transients from the tropics to midlatitudes. Non-linear effects on the lower tropospheric stationary waves are prominently seen in the case of strong low level heating which produces a large strengthening of the lower tropospheric cyclonic anomalies that exhibit distinct eastward shifts in the NM relative to the LM.